So, between pondering David du Chemin’s lesson in The Visual Toolbox and Christine Greve’s first lesson in SlowDownforStills, I’m not sure what I’ve accomplished other than letting my head spin. I’ve thought about some of my favorite images, and I suppose my favorites vary from week to week and sometimes day to day.
I know that for a very global learner and “big picture” girl, I photograph details. I get up close and personal, and the commentators on the sports shows used to say when interviewing athletes, to get the textures and the little things that make up the big picture. I zoom in rather than zoom out.
Oh, I love panoramas of nature and landscape. I want to see the full context as much as anyone else. But I also like to see the trees in the forest as well as the forest. Sometimes, the forest overwhelms me. And then I think of Ann Lamot’s story of her brother’s project on birds. Their father gave him some good advise: take the project “bird by bird.” And so, in photography, I try to take each photograph “image by image,” detail by detail.
I also discover that I “isolate” things. If there are four cardinals at the feeder, then I isolate the image to one of those cardinals. If there are a dozen zinnias blooming, I take just one zinnia. And then rather than take the image of the whole plant, I focus on whatever I see as the most interesting.
And that’s the same when I take people pictures. I try to capture the most interesting part of the person rather than the whole person.
So, my vision has to do with the details, regardless of what they are. And I try to let that image tell the story. For example, I have an old piano—vintage 1930s. As a piece of “furniture” it is gorgeous! I love the wood grain and the variegated shades of browns, but what attracts my attention most is the keys, the beautifully aged ivory and ebony keys. My first piano (that I bought myself) had the modern plastic white keys, but this Lester Betsy Ross Spinet has real ivory and ebony. They look different; they feel different. And I am drawn to the mottled coloration and even the “unevenness” of the keyboard. Some of the keys look “curled” at the edges. There are days that I pass the piano, though, without a glance, but then I take a long hard look at it and appreciate it all over again, not just the craftsmanship that went into its construction, but also the story behind it. It is a gift to me from a young couple in my church.
This is the beauty and perhaps the function of photography—not about making great art all of the time, but about learning how to see differently.